Technology: sleek, innovative and available in various nicotine levels.
Electronic cigarettes are providing smokers with an alternative habit, which may save them significant amounts of money over time (after the initial investment).
Numerous types of electronic cigarettes exist, but the majority operate using a battery, atomizer and cartridge containing nicotine and flavoring.
Rather than producing smoke, an electronic cigarette produces water vapor. This vapor does not linger as cigarette smoke does, which eliminates odors and allows those around the user to enjoy relatively clean air. Because there is no smoke, electronic cigarettes may be used in places where smoking is not allowed. The convenience of not having to brave the rainy outdoors to satiate one’s nicotine desires is also a distinct benefit.
With the technology comes some concern, though, at least for junior Jake Masin, who switched to electronic cigarettes after clove cigarettes were banned in September 2009.
“I’m really worried that they’re targeted toward young people because of the technological appeal,” he said.
Although electronic cigarettes do not appear to be common at Linfield, Internet forums provide insight into what is becoming a new subculture, complete with its own jargon.
E-cigarette-forum.com is an excellent example of this. On the forum, electronic cigarettes are referred to as “e-cigs,” and traditional cigarettes are called “analogs,” as in analog versus digital. An electronic cigarette may also be called a “personal vaporizer.” The term “vaping” is frequently used to describe the use of e-cigarettes. People that use electronic cigarettes are called “vapers.”
Electronic cigarettes allow consumers to customize everything from color to flavor to nicotine amount. The cigarettes themselves come in a variety of colors and sizes. Cartridges also feature many flavors and nicotine levels, including some with no nicotine at all.
Available flavors include options such as kung pao chicken, absinthe and cheesecake, along with more predictable flavors such as menthol and tobacco.
Electronic cigarettes provide a shiny alternative to traditional cigarettes, but information on the risks and effects is not readily available.
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate electronic cigarettes because of a ruling made Jan. 14, 2010, by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon. The ruling states that electronic cigarettes should not be subjected to FDA regulation because they are simply an alternative to traditional cigarettes. Cigarettes, however, are regulated by the FDA.
Companies that produce electronic cigarettes claim that they are more healthful than traditional cigarettes, as they are made without tar and other toxins found in traditional cigarettes. But just because they’re healthier doesn’t mean they’re healthy. However, without FDA regulation, they are not required to state potential harm.
“There’s a knowledge gap with electronic cigarettes and their contents,” Masin said. “The only people that really know about [them] are the ones that make [them].”
The information provided varies significantly from company to company. While Blu Cigs electronic cigarettes appear to be one of the more popular brands, most likely because of a lower price tag, the company’s Web site provides little information on the dirtier details.
On the other hand, the Web site for Green Smoke contains much more comprehensive information, which is easy to locate and read through. Green Smoke products have been independently tested for safety, and the Web site contains a page with information on their safety certification.
In general, Green Smoke provides significantly more information than Blu Cigs every step of the way. Green Smoke’s Web site provides explanations of the nicotine in their cartridges compared to that in cigarettes; Blu Cigs only mentions the amount of nicotine. Green Smoke makes it easy for consumers to research its products, something that seems important in this case.
Although electronic cigarettes are marketed as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, many students who smoke do not see themselves turning to this product any time soon.
Freshman Gillian Welch, who smokes traditional cigarettes, said that she was unfamiliar with electronic cigarettes and does not have an interest in trying them.
“I like the sensation of smoke going into my lungs and exhaling it,” Welch said.
She also said that, while the initial investment may keep smokers from trying electronic cigarettes, the technology will probably gain popularity over time.
Masin said that he allowed a few of his friends who smoke traditional cigarettes to try his electronic cigarette.
“They said they really liked it, but wouldn’t be willing to fork out the money for it,” he said.
Electronic cigarette companies advertise that users will save money if they switch from traditional cigarettes. The initial investment is a bit steep, but individual cartridge usually costs $1-3.
Blu Cigs sells its cartridges by the carton — each carton contains 25 cartridges and costs $25. Each cartridge is equal to approximately seven traditional cigarettes.
Green Smoke sells its cartridges in packages of five for $14.95 or sample packages of eight for $24.95. According to the Green Smoke Web site, each cartridge is comparable to at least one package of traditional cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes allow a new approach to smoking: no more ash, no more smoke, no more fire. No more pesky cigarette butts to litter the sidewalk with. No more second-hand smoke to annoy passerby. Electronic cigarettes mean using a USB charger instead of a lighter, having the ability to take as many or as few puffs as you want at any given time and a wide variety of customized options. Although they may be an attractive, new technology, it is advisable for those interested to do their research before they enter the vapor.
Story by Amanda Summers
Copy editor Amanda Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org